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10-12-2013, 08:29 AM   #1
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A Lightmeter to buy..

Hi all!
It's the time to buy a lightmeter, since I can't go outside everytime with a digital camera that works as lightmeter...

I've red some reviews, but I'm a bit confused.
I usually do outside shots, with a little part of studio works. So the best would be a lightmeter with flash sync. BUT:
1) I've seen the Sekonic l-208: compact, affordable, but I don't know if reliable and it doesn't have flash sync
2) the Sekonic l-308s: has flash sync, and incident and reflective reading (maybe the right choice??)

Could you suggest to me other lightmeters? Or just tell me your idea about the previous?

I really don't know anything about lightmeters, so I'm open to every suggestion! (also on books to learn something)

P.S. I wouldn't spend a lot of money; I think spot reading isn't important for me.

Thank you very much!!
Gabriele

10-12-2013, 08:40 AM   #2
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I have L308s an L758dr. The 308 is great, it's small and it does it well and fast. Are you planning to shoot landscape? That's one of the times you might want spot meter.

For me the only downside if 308 is it doesn't have aperture priority. Only shutter.

If you want aperture you will want the bigger brother L358. It also can do contrast rations and percentage of ambient light vs flash. I find this functions the most useful in my L758 and the cheaper L358 has. Also it can do pocket wizards if you decide to do wireless flash. You should be able to pick up L358 pretty cheap since it was just discontinued.

Another options which come with spot meter are L508 and L558. You should be able to find them on eBay. Both are discontinued and should be fairly cheap.
10-12-2013, 09:07 AM   #3
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I only use the light meter with film cameras. I had L358 and now I've got L308. Although L358 is much more powerful, it's a bit bulkier compared to L308 which I can literally keep in my pocket. So now a days I exclusively use 308. It doesn't have Av mode, but it's not a big problem for me.
10-12-2013, 10:48 AM   #4
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Get a used Minolta. I have a light meter IV F which I got a couple of years ago in good (but not great) condition. I tested it against a friend's new Sekonic and the readings were identical.

The IV F is still available new as the Kenko KFM-1100, but there's no need to pay that much: Kenko KFM-1100 Auto Digi Meter K-KFM1100 B&H Photo Video

Accessories are readily available, both new and used. The used Minolta meter typically goes for less than half the price of the new Kenko branded one. I got an especially good price on Craigslist for $50.

10-12-2013, 11:21 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Do not waste your money on an incident meter that doesn't measure flash.The Sekonic 308 is a capable little meter, but I'll bet that if you look around for a week or two, you'll be able to find a used 358 for nearly the same price as a new 308. The 358 has a feature that displays the ratio of flash to ambient light as a percentage, it's unbelievably useful, not to mention fast.

No one ever wants to spend a lot on a light meter, it's just not a sexy purchase like a new lens, but allow me to provide a little testimonial here. I paid $400 US about three years ago for a used Sekonic 758DR, it had a few scratches on the LCD screen, but was otherwise in good shape. I have never regretted it, in fact, next to my camera and a lens (obviously) it's the one piece of gear that I cannot live without now. I'm a portrait shooter, and I use it religiously for every shoot. I get great consistent results with very little post production work, at least little to correct exposure problems. I'm glad I bought the 758 as well because I still shoot film, and the 758 allows you to execute perfectly the zone system (well, assuming that you know what you're doing), so it saves me the cost of bracketing so many of my exposures.
10-12-2013, 11:47 AM   #6
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Original Poster
Thank you all!

I'm in the portrait photography too. Why did you say to avoid only incident meter?

And unfortunately yes, I don't know what is the "zone system". I'm really new here. Now I'll try to google it. Thank you!

---edit---
wow.. I've read in wikipedia... I think that I have to take more time to read the zonal system... It's not so simple, isn't it?

Last edited by gabro822; 10-12-2013 at 11:58 AM. Reason: adding details
10-12-2013, 12:37 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by gabro822 Quote
I'm in the portrait photography too. Why did you say to avoid only incident meter?
Perhaps I could have been more clear. Incident meters are fine, nothing wrong with incident only meters, because your camera has a fairly reliable reflective meter. Avoid light meters that don't measure flash, period. It's just a waste of money, because for a little bit more you can get one that measures both continuous light and flash. Some of the higher end meters will even display the ratio of flash to ambient which is really useful when trying to balance the two quickly and consistently. You may want to visit the Sekonic website and check out their excellent video tutorials on using a light meter. They of course focus on their own brand of light meters, but most of the information holds true of any brand.
10-12-2013, 04:06 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
Avoid light meters that don't measure flash, period. It's just a waste of money, because for a little bit more you can get one that measures both continuous light and flash.
I guess it depends on what constitutes a "little bit more" $$.

I own the Sekonic L-208 and it is a pretty decent little meter, though I wish it were a little more substantial, build-wise and is, as a result, overpriced in my opinion. It does incident as well as reflected measurements, is reasonably sensitive, and very compact. For balancing against flash, I have to do it the old fashioned way. Current price is $120 USD at B&H.

Compare to the next rung up in the Sekonic product ladder, the L-308S. The package is a definite step up build-wise and adds (very) basic flash metering. Excellent sensitivity (-3 EV) gives it a leg up over its little brothers. Speaking of size, it is twice as big (need a bigger pocket, 4" on the long axis) and 2/3 more money. The LCD (non-back-lit) read-out has its plus points, but so does an analog dial. Current price is $206 USD at B&H.

Need a meter that does the ambient/flash balancing act? I may be reading the specs wrong, but I do believe that we are looking at money close to $400 USD in the Sekonic range or $300 USD for the Kenko.

Sooo...long story short. Things get pretty expensive very quickly in meter land. I would suggest a simple meter with reflected and incident (maybe even used?) and some strobist experience* before putting out big money on a meter with full-on flash support. Some time with a basic tool allows the user to find the pain points and the direction to go when considering a more sophisticated model.


Steve

*Not my usual area of expertise, but I am aware there are myriad options.

P.S. At some point #tuco may join this thread. I would be interested in hearing his take on this.


Last edited by stevebrot; 10-12-2013 at 04:14 PM.
10-12-2013, 05:51 PM   #9
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I agree to get one with flash metering. Minoltas are good as well, but I have not used one, so I can't comment on its functions.

When shooting film you can't chimp and guess settings by playing around with flash. It needs to be spot on.

With my L758 (L558 is exact same meter, but without camera profiles) I can read the whole scene and know what it will look like before I hit the shutter. That's the advantage of spot meter and where zone metering comes in. I can make sure the whites are white and blacks are black. Etc... It works with flash too.

If you do portraits with flash, I would look for minimum a L358 or similar. It's the same meter as above, but no spot meter. The ambient to flash ratio is useful when using fill flash outdoors. Not so much in studio. It can be calculated in head. But it is a lot faster.

The most useful feature I think are the contrast ratios. You can quickly setup your flashes for 1:2 contrast for females. Or if you want something more aggressive for man, 1:3 or even 1:4.

Of course, you can calculate those in your head with L308 by putting it into EV mode.
10-13-2013, 09:54 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nuff Quote
I would look for minimum a L358 or similar.
Appears to no longer be available (at least in N. America). The much less expensive L-478D ($339 after rebate at Adorama) matches most of the L-358's features and might be a better option at present. The only drawback is that it is touch screen and would be difficult to use when wearing gloves.


Steve
10-13-2013, 10:09 AM   #11
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Gabro, I agree it is bad form to take a dslr along with a film camera, and a period correct meter is the way to go.
By your gallery, it looks like you are exposing the photos very well!

Checking the 1960's Honeywell Pentax 3/21 on the color charts against the K-01 in spot mode:
They are almost identical exposure predictions on the skin tones and the 3/21 would predict underexposure by 1/3 stop on the gray. (with its present calibration).

With the exposure set as predicted (iso 100, f/8 and 1/400th)
The K01 exposed the skin tone on the jpg as R 184, G 149, B 130 for an average brightness of 180 (of 255)

This spot meter was purchased for $25 non working, and its 2 batteries are obsolete so I re built its circuit to work on a standard 9V battery.
Now I have 2 old broken Pentax V 1/21 to try to get one working and calibrated.

To calibrate against the Pentax MX or Ricoh film cameras here I would need a bigger color chart, as they have center weighted meters.
So I have been doing that on the side of the gray house.
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10-13-2013, 05:14 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Appears to no longer be available (at least in N. America). The much less expensive L-478D ($339 after rebate at Adorama) matches most of the L-358's features and might be a better option at present. The only drawback is that it is touch screen and would be difficult to use when wearing gloves.


Steve
There are plenty of new ones on ebay and 2nd hand. The OP is looking for a cheap lightmeter and that's the best way to get a decent one cheap. Both of my lightmeters are 2nd and were mint. No issues.

The big downside of L478D is that it chews through batteries.

/begin rant...
If you want pocket wizard functionality with it and you live in USA and Canada make sure its FCC certified, since it has to use specific wavelengths.
For EU and Australia etc, it has to be EC certified. I made a mistake of buying a FCC certified meter which wouldn't work too well (legally anyway) in Australia.
Also Japan uses it's own wavelengths and I travel there a lot. This is the stupidest part of sekonic meters with pocket wizards. A different one is needed for different country, but the same transmitter can be used in all of them. It would make a lot more sense to do it the other way around /rant over.
10-13-2013, 06:10 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nuff Quote
The OP is looking for a cheap lightmeter and that's the best way to get a decent one cheap.
I would hope so. Price new is over $750 USD for the few that I found.


Steve
10-13-2013, 08:22 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I would hope so. Price new is over $750 USD for the few that I found.


Steve
I'm not sure where have you been looking or what meter as well. Even L758 is cheaper than that, I picked mine up for less than $400, but it was 2nd hand.
L358 sells between $100 to $150 on ebay at the moment. It is a steal. I'm thinking about getting one for myself. Just because there can never be enough meters
Also it's smaller than 758, but has most of the features.
10-13-2013, 10:14 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nuff Quote
I'm not sure where have you been looking or what meter as well. Even L758 is cheaper than that, I picked mine up for less than $400, but it was 2nd hand.
L358 sells between $100 to $150 on ebay at the moment. It is a steal. I'm thinking about getting one for myself. Just because there can never be enough meters
Also it's smaller than 758, but has most of the features.
L-358

Amazon.com merchants for new (shipped from Asia) LINK.

eBay for used here in the U.S. is a little higher. Most auctions are ending at about $200 USD. I saw a couple BIN for $250 - $275 USD. I can't say for the OP's market (Italy?).

In any case, there is some good value in used meters, but the entry ticket for a better flash capable unit used looks to be in the $200 range. That is a lot of money to support a 35mm SLR that already has a meter, but if flash is usually part of the work, it may be worth it, both for film and for digital. Again, I would stress that much depends on the photographer's needs. I use hand-held meters a lot since I own several meterless cameras. Neither of my meters is flash capable. Frankly, it is a feature that I do not miss since I am primarily an available light photographer, even for portraits. When I do need to balance flash, I can do the calculations. It is not rocket science. If most of my work was portraiture, I would probably spring for a more sophisticated meter and also some more sophisticated lighting to go with it, but so far, I have no pain and therefore, no need.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 10-13-2013 at 10:46 PM.
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